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Just Because We Look Away, The War in Afghanistan is Not Over

Courtesy Surian Soosay/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

This article was originally published by the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) on 13 January 2017.

Recent developments herald a troubled year for the Afghans

During 2015 and 2016, the Taliban have been on an offensive and gained territory. Particularly they have made inroads into strategic areas where the Taliban can control the roads. At the same time, there is an active fight between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Taliban over 20% of the Afghan territory. How the final battle will fall out is unknown, but if the ANSF loses, the Taliban can end up controlling up to one-third of the country.

The past couple of years have seen an increase in violent incidents, an increase in militant actors and in both the number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and Afghan returnees from the EU, Pakistan and Iran. The increase of violence is related both to the force used by insurgents and the Afghan government. The increase in militant actors is due to the military operation, known as the Zarb-e-Azb, launched by the Pakistani army in the tribal areas of Pakistan, which has pushed over new militants to Afghan soil, but also due to the entrance of the Islamic State into Afghanistan.

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Relax, NATO Isn’t Going Anywhere

We stand on guard for thee

Courtesy of Dea Bee/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article was originally published by Political Violence @ a Glance on 16 January 2017.

Donald Trump’s election caused consternation at home and abroad. Outside of the United States, perhaps nowhere is the shock of his victory more keenly felt than amongst our longstanding allies in Europe. No doubt European leaders were still grappling with the aftermath of this development and possible ramifications when they met last month for the final EU Council meeting of the year to discuss the general security situation.

During the campaign, Trump’s anti-NATO rhetoric was met by many with a mixture of scorn and amusement. Now, many longtime transatlantic security watchers are sounding the alarm. Lost in all this, however, are several positive developments which point not only to the staying power of the collective defense norm but the wider transatlantic security relationship as well.

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Trump’s Troubling Bilateralism

Trump

Courtesy of Oli Goldsmith/Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

This article was originally published by Carnegie Europe on 20 January 2017.

Supporters of the EU should be troubled by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks in a joint interview with the Times and Bild published on January 16. Trump said not only that Britain’s exit from the union would “end up being a great thing” but also that the EU would continue to break apart. Trump explained, “People, countries, want their own identity.”

Speaking on British radio the same day, Theodore Malloch, a university professor tipped to become the next U.S. ambassador to the EU, added that the United States may lure more countries out of the EU by offering trade deals on bilateral bases.

Trump was more mixed on NATO, if not altogether reassuring: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems. Number one it was obsolete. . . . Number two the countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay. . . . With that being said, NATO is very important to me.”

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For America, 2016 Was the Year of the Commando

Special Operation Soldiers of the United States Army Special Operations Command

Courtesy USASOC News Service/Flickr. CC BY 2.0

This article was published by War is Boring on 5 January 2017.

They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates. At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group Al Shabab.

Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces. Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul. And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have every year since 2001.

For America, 2016 may have been the year of the commando. In one conflict zone after another across the northern tier of Africa and the Greater Middle East, U.S. special operations forces — aka SOF — waged their particular brand of low-profile warfare.

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Grappling with the Fait Accompli: A Classical Tactic in the Modern Strategic Landscape

Note stating 'It's a fate accompli'

Note stating ‘It’s a fate accompli’, courtesy Adamina/Flickr

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 31 May 2016.

Good scholarship doesn’t need to fit within a 2×2 matrix, but it sure helps make sense of things when it does. It’s in this spirit of conceptual clarity that I developed the diagram below depicting variations in the fait accompli, an age-old but underappreciated tactic of the disgruntled and strategically minded. Rather than the naked use of force or threat-making alone—situations whose logics are straightforward even if the best responses aren’t—the fait accompli is a move that pursues an advantage by making it difficult for a competitor to retaliate or counter.

Variations of the Fair Accompli

Variations of the Fait Accompli Table, courtesy Van Jackson/War on the Rocks

This 2×2 diagram is part of a lecture I give at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies on revisionist tactics short of war — what many now call “gray zone” conflicts. Although most security studies scholars and analysts understand broadly what a fait accompli is — literally an “accomplished fact” — the tactic itself has rarely been an object of analysis (two recent rare exceptions are discussed more below). This is a serious oversight, because in the so-called “gray zone” of conflict, the fait accompli is a common means by which states pursue revisionist agendas.

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